George Packard unpacked his lunch and ate it with a Starbucks in the park outside the library. Another day, another dollar. George Packard was getting used to the idea of being retired. No more need to produce, or to make money. He didn’t really need that much money any more. His pension was more than sufficient. Now that he was retired he used less than before. He had often taught his science class students about the “carbon footprint” concept. It was in the curriculum. Well, carbon-wise, George was tip-to-ing down the tulips; he was leaving barely a whisper of a trail. He rode his bicycle, he took the bus, he walked, he saved plastic bottles and bags to recycle. Perhaps he was atoning for the Packard family’s heavy contribution to the American CO2 overload: their gas-guzzling sins. But simply it made no sense for human beings to be polluting the earth. So very simply George Packard tried to do as little polluting as he could. Yes, George was a bit of a Luddite, a back-to-nature boy at heart. He seemed to gravitate toward a simple life.
When he had been in San Salvador someone had once told him that making life easier for one’s self needed to be a goal in one’s life. George, the young Peace Corps volunteer, had stated that the fixing of one’s goal, and then the committed application of all one’s efforts toward the attainment of that goal was the only way he wanted to live. His friend Juan, an older man, had responded in a fatherly way, saying, “I don’t know, George, why you always want to make things so hard for yourself. Look to make things more easy for you self”.
Sitting on the #20 bus, headed for the library, George Packard scouted the women on the seats in front of him. There were some very lovely young girls up front. They laughed, tossing their long hair back. Ah, but they were too young; they were not appropriate prey for George Packard the hunter. Of course George Packard realized he was an old man, but it remained a life-long habit (and pleasure) of his to “prowl” the women. So George Packard, retired school teacher, was “on the prowl” again. On the #20 bus headed for the library.
George Packard lived a life of fantasy nowadays. But he could quite easily come down from his fanciful daydreams. He could descend to the day-to-day world from his fantasy heights, and function quite adequately in the “real” world. This adeptness, this mental adroitness at switching modes, at quickly and smoothly changing gears from his fantasy world to the real world now enabled Mr. Packard to engage in fantasy thoughts quite often. Because he very rarely got caught. No one knew that he was perceiving “real life” in a very personal, “unreal” manner. He was getting away with it. Somehow, though, George Packard considered it a weakness, an indulgence.
“Better to keep your mind on things that are clean and pure”, had said his father. George Packard remembered clearly his father’s words, spoken to him while they were out in the garage. George had been six or seven years old. Dad talked while he worked: “That’s right, George. That’s right, my son. You see how sweet and clean this motor runs. Well, that’s what I mean. I mean, that’s how you want things in your life. That’s how you want to be yourself….” George’s memory of the exact words faded. But clearly his father had pointed out to him something important to him and fundamental in life, an ideal toward which to strive.
Of course, the vocabulary of machines and motors were only the words, the language in which his father, the mechanic, was comfortable. Joseph Packard was trying in his simple way to give to his son a gift, something larger. George remembered the grace of his father’s movements: the way he handled the heavy tools, the quiet, calm confident manner he assumed whenever he worked with his hands.
Joseph Packard seemed comfortable only in his great, cavernous garage – a large wooden barn from the old days. Outside the garage, his father was less graceful. In the house, at meals, at holiday gatherings, and whenever they were all together with his mother and grandmother present, father was quieter, and more reserved. Nearly detached from the rest of the family. Joseph Packard had simply never learned to be in the world of people and he was was not familiar with it the way he was familiar with the world of machinery.
George Packard remembered his father very fondly.